Selected Past Projects
Conservation of White Ash (Fraxinus americana) in the Allegheny National Forest, Chicago Botanic Garden
This project is a collaborative effort between the Chicago Botanic Garden, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the USDA Forest Service. My role in this project is to assess the genetic diversity of white ash throughout Allegheny National Forest using microsatellite markers. Results from this project will aid Allegheny National Forest in managing the remaining populations of white ash after invasion by emerald ash borer (Agrilus planipennis), an invasive and highly destructive beetle that feeds almost exclusively on ash.
Investigating the Drivers of Floral Trait Polymorphism in Castilleja coccinea (Orobanchaceae), Chicago Botanic Garden
Building on work completed during her Master's thesis, Anna Braum and Dr. Jeremie Fant are investigating the potential drivers of floral trait variation in Castilleja coccinea across the range of this species. My role in this project is to analyze data from over 100 herbaria, the Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Survey, and the National Land Cover Database, using spatial analysis tools in ArcGIS. We are currently preparing a manuscript of our findings from this study.
Range-wide Genetic Analysis of the Eastern Prairie Fringed Orchid, a federally threatened species, Chicago Botanic Garden
Since the fall of 2015, Claire Ellwanger and I, along with Dr. Jeremie Fant, have been working on a range-wide genetic analysis of Platanthera leucophaea, a federally-listed species. Our research will assess the genetic implications of restoration and management practices on populations in Illinois and inform current recovery practices and identify regions for conservation priority. You can read more about this work on the USFWS blog post titled "Hunting for an Elusive Orchid", the USFWS Field Notes blog, and the Chicago Botanic Garden's blog post titled "How Love and Science May Defend a Wild Orchid." A manuscript of the findings from this research are currently in preparation.
Landscapes of Linalool: Scent-mediated diversification of evening primroses and moths across the southwest, Chicago Botanic Garden
During the 2015 field season, I worked with Dr. Krissa Skogen and her team on an NSF-funded study exploring patterns of diversity in evening primroses and pollinators across the southwest, and how interactions between these plants and pollinators affect diversity and lead to speciation. Linalool, a scent compound produced by many members of the Onagraceae (evening primrose) family, is just one of the many dimensions analyzed in this project. You can read more about this NSF-funded study on Dr. Krissa Skogen's lab webpage or at www.onagmoth.org
Genetic identification of morphologically indistinguishable species for the purpose of invasive species control, Chicago Botanic Garden
Phragmites australis, common reed, grows throughout the United States. While this species is native to North America, a non-native, invasive genotype has been identified and is aggressively spreading in the States. Determining which genotype is present can be a challenge for land managers as these types are morphologically indistinguishable. However, identification can be accomplished through restriction fragment length polymorphisms (RFLPs). In 2014, I worked as a research assistant for Dr. Jeremie Fant and Dr. Daniel Larkin on Project PhragNet, performing RFLP analysis at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Results from this study were published in Wetlands Ecology and Management.
Effectiveness of bubble curtains as a deterrence method for listed fish species, San Pablo Bay, California
During 2012 and 2013 I was directly involved in a multi-year project monitoring the effectiveness of fish deterrence methods for dry docks at the mouth of the Napa River, California, which have recently come under the scrutiny of state and federal agencies due to their potential to entrap listed fish species. As a fisheries biologist for WRA, Inc., my role involved leading field crews, identifying species, and technical report preparation. This project provided a unique opportunity to develop deterrence methods for dry docks and collect several years of species occurrence information. In 2015, WRA Fisheries Biologist Daniel Chase presented the findings of this long-term study at the American Fisheries Society conference in Portland, Oregon.
California red-legged frog translocation and population monitoring, California
WRA and Ridge Top Ranch, LLC are in the process of developing over 280 acres of high quality California red-legged frog (CRLF) and callippe silverspot butterfly mitigation habitat located within Solano County, California. WRA, in consultation with the USFWS and under 10(a)(1)(A) Recovery Permit TE-212445-0, successfully translocated California red-legged frogs to created habitat within the Ridge Top Ranch Wildlife Conservation Bank. My role in this project included nighttime and daytime surveys for CRLFs and egg masses, assisting with the collection and translocation of two CRLF egg masses, and assisting in the capture and PIT-tagging of individuals for population monitoring.
Biological stoichiometry of microbes under severe phosphorus limitation, Cuatro Cienegas, Mexico
As part of a collaborative study involving multiple universities and funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), I managed a high-profile, two-month experiment investigating element ratios and nutrient limitation in the Cuatro Cienegas Basin, Mexico. This project utilized in-situ mesocosms and required extensive sampling of biotic (planktonic and benthic) and abiotic components. As a research specialist, I was responsible for day-to-day project management, and analysis of all samples collected for total phosphorus, total dissolved phosphorus, soluble reactive phosphorus, ammonium, and chlorophyll. Findings from this study were published in PLOS ONE.
Modeling the “stoichiometric knife edge” in freshwater grazers with model organism Daphnia, Arizona State University
As a research specialist, I was responsible for setup and management of experiments with the aim of developing and testing mathematical models of food web dynamics. Experiments included measuring growth, feeding, and respiration rates of Daphnia, a small aquatic crustacean, grown on algal cultures of varying C:P (carbon to phosphorus) ratios. Experiments utilized fluorescence microscopy, spectrophotometer, fluorometer, and theUnisense MicroRespirator System. Findings from this study were published in Inland Waters.
Aquatic Baseline and Impact Assessment for Donlin Gold, Alaska
For four years I assisted with the development and actualization of an aquatic baseline and biomonitoring program for the development of a gold mine and pipeline in interior Alaska. I contributed to water quality, helicopter salmon spawning surveys, electrofishing, fish trapping, seining, fish tissue metals, and macroinvertebrate studies. Additionally, I assisted with designing and implementing a resistance board fish weir equipped with video for total salmon counts on Crooked Creek. I was also the lead on all GIS and Acoustic Doppler Profiler related tasks for this project. You can read about Donlin Gold, including more about their 10+ years of environmental studies, on their website.
Effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on lake N:P stoichiometry and nutrient limitation, Norway
As a REU working with Dr. Jim Elser at Arizona State University, I managed 52 separate nutrient enrichment experiments in Norway as part of a study to determine the effects of atmospheric nitrogen deposition on the productivity and efficiency of food webs in lakes. Although I was involved in many aspects of this project, my focus was on managing the algal bioassay portion of this NSF-funded study. The results of these experiments were published in Science.
Nutrient availability and phytoplankton nutrient limitation across a gradient of atmospheric nitrogen deposition, Colorado
Participated in a summer REU program during which I was responsible for managing the algal bioassay portion of the study. I was also involved in other aspects of the study including: assisting with setup and design of a flow-through system for experiments on zooplankton growth, collecting water quality data and sampling lakes, processing and analyzing chlorophyll data, and preparing field samples for nutrient and elemental analyses in other laboratories. The results of experiments were published in Ecology.
photo credits (top to bottom): Encyclopedia Britannica, Laura Steger, The Harvard University Herbaria, Claire Ellwanger, Laura Steger, Laura Steger, Kate Allan, Daniel Chase, Jim Elser, Laura Steger, Kortney Kirkeby, Jim Elser, Jim Elser.